Two supervisors plan Washington trip

By Bob Steenson, 

Two Floyd County supervisors plan to travel to Washington, D.C., next week at the invitation of the White House.

Supervisors Doug Kamm and Mark Kuhn said at a board planning session Monday morning that they intend to attend a conference Wednesday, March 21.

Floyd County Supervisors will hold a public hearing at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, March 13, to receive comments on the 2018-19 county budget.

The budget shows a small increase in the countywide property tax levy, from $5.424 per $1,000 of assessed valuation to $5.452, an increase of about half of a percent.

The rural-only levy will also increase slightly, from $8.824 per $1,000 to $8.852, an increase of about 0.3 percent.

County property tax levies have been on a general downward trend, having fallen from more than $11 per $1,000 in the rural levy in 2006-2009, and from more than $7 per $1,000 in the countywide levy in those years.

Supervisor Linda Tjaden said she was going to pass, because she would be too involved in the effort to inform county voters about a proposal to build a new law enforcement center.

Kamm said it was his understanding that every county supervisor in the state had been sent an invitation, and this was part of a White House initiative to eventually invite the county commissioners and supervisors from each state to visit.

He said he and his wife had already signed up to attend.

“How often do you get an invitation to the White House?” said Kamm, a Republican.

Kuhn, a Democrat, said, “I don’t see why we wouldn’t want to attend — if we can provide input from the local level to the White House.”

Kuhn suggested the trip should be paid for by the county, just as travel for any official business would be.

But Kamm said he didn’t intend to charge Floyd County for the expense, because he and his wife were planning to treat the event as a personal trip, “going to look at the cherry blossoms and go on a White House tour.”

The supervisors made no decisions on the event, as no official actions are taken during a planning session. The trip is on the regular meeting agenda for Tuesday morning.

Also at the meeting Monday, the supervisors heard from John Merfeld of Rockford, who said a property he owned had been incorrectly assessed after it was constructed in 2010. He said the property was assessed as though it had a full basement, but it has only a slab foundation.

He said he didn’t question his assessment at the time, because the valuation listed was close to the construction cost.

Merfeld said last year he listed the property for sale and a real estate agent noticed the error.

Merfeld estimated $2,097 as the difference in what he paid in taxes over what he should have paid in 2012-2017.

County Assessor Gary Vander Werf said it was an oversight and happened before he was in the position.

County Treasurer Frank Rottinghaus said the property taxes collected each year are divided among the various county departments and other uses. If money was refunded it would have to be taken back from each of those departments, he said.

“The assessment process is defined in Iowa code. Taxpayers have a certain amount of time to protest valuations,” Rottinghaus said.

Merfeld responded that he had no way of knowing that a mistake had been made, because the annual tax forms simply list a valuation, not how that valuation is determined.

“I understand John’s frustration,” Rottinghaus said. “This is just an unfortunate situation.”

The county officials suggested Merfeld take the problem to the Board of Review, which meets May 1, although they were unsure what remedy was available.

Rottinghaus noted that Merfeld no longer owns the property, having sold it last year.